Summary: The story of Hosea, his wife Gomer the prostitute and their three children; Jezreel, Not-pitied, and No Mercy. God took the ugliness of apostasy and turned it into a thing of beauty.
Grace Makes Beauty out of Ugly Things
Hosea 1:2-10 July 29, 2007
Have you ever forgotten who you are? When our boys were in their mid-teens, we lived in Elkhart. Just a couple of blocks behind our house were a couple of acres of wooded land where they liked to play. Nothing at all wrong with that…kids like to do stuff in the woods.
On the other side of the woods was a lumber company. One day the police came knocking at our door telling me that they had a complaint that some neighborhood kids had stolen some lumber and built a tree house with it. We finally got to the bottom of the story, and as it turned out, there were twelve or thirteen boys who began to build this tree house with scraps of lumber that they found lying around. One thing led to another and pretty soon they were taking more than just scrap lumber.
A few days later, we met at the police station with all the kids and their parents as well as a representative of the lumber company. The company’s position was that these boys had done something stupid. They weren’t insisting on pursuing it on a criminal level, but simply wanted to be reimbursed for the lumber taken. They were content to let each family handle the discipline issues within their own home.
As it turned out, each boy was responsible for about $90 or so. I remember that our boys were grounded for a long time, except for the times they were allowed to work at odd jobs to pay off their debt. I actually told them that they were going to be grounded until they got married, but later on I relented a little bit. Things were not much different in the other boy’s homes.
As we sat in the police station with the other parents – some of whom we knew and some we didn’t – it struck me that these were good families whose kids had done something incredibly stupid. The boys weren’t criminals. They didn’t come from bad home situations. They weren’t headed for a life of crime. What they had done however was to act in a way that was completely unacceptable. They acted in ways that were directly opposed to the values by which they had been raised. They had disappointed and embarrassed the heck out of their parents. We all insisted that they pay the price…and they did.
In the last ten years, our sons have matured and have both become responsible adults. There was just a period of time in their lives when they forgot who they were and how they had been raised.
There were times in the corporate life of Israel when they forgot who they were and how they had been raised. There were times when they walked away from God, disregarded God’s instructions, and thumbed their noses at God’s authority. When those times became especially evil, God would raise up prophets to call the people back to faithfulness. Such is the situation in the Scripture lesson for today.
The prophet Hosea was unmarried at this point and God told him to go out and marry a prostitute. It is possible that God is telling him to marry an actual prostitute, but I think it is more likely that the word is used here as a metaphor to describe the religious apostasy or their intentional rejection of their religious foundation. Later on in his prophecy, Hosea will say that a spirit of whoredom has led the people astray (4:12).
The image of marriage is at the center of Hosea’s prophecy. The relationship between God and the people is one not unlike the marriage relationship between a man and a woman. Israel has chosen to walk away from her end of the relationship and so has brought judgment on herself. Israel has betrayed God.
Hosea chose a woman named Gomer, which means “to end or come to an end.” That is a fitting name because it describes the relationship between the people and God.
Their first child is to be named “Jezreel” which refers to the valley about 50 miles north of Jerusalem which was the site of a bloody coup by Jehu, a general in the army of King Jehoram. The coup originally enjoyed wide prophetic support, but Jehu slaughtered many more people than needed or expected. Even the King of Judah, who was visiting the King of Israel at the time, was killed. For this gratuitous and terrible violence, God will bring retribution on the whole nation. You can find the story of the Jezreel massacre in I Kings 9-10.
Gomer’s second child was named “No Mercy” or “Not-Pitied” as a sign that God would no longer have pity on Israel, but would instead bless Judah. Historically, this came to pass because the northern Kingdom of Israel was soon destroyed by invading Assyrians, while the southern Kingdom of Judah lasted another one hundred years.